'Forgotten People' Slam Bennett Freeze Redevelopment Plan - 'Web Of Life' Serves Native Youth
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick picked the “worst agency” to oversee redevelopment activities in the former Bennett Freeze area when she proposed assigning those duties to the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, according to the Forgotten People.
Kirkpatrick, D-1st District, Arizona, recently sent draft legislation to tribal leaders and local officials asking for their comments by Sept. 29 on a “Former Bennett Freeze Area Redevelopment Act.” Comments from former Bennett Freeze residents apparently were not solicited and the draft was not posted to Kirkpatrick's Web site.
“ONHIR is the fox guarding the hen house,” Don Yellowman, president of the Forgotten People, said. The group is comprised of relocatees and former Bennett Freeze residents who were prohibited from building new homes or making repairs to existing homes for more than 40 years as a result of federal policy imposed due to a land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
“ONHIR is in the business of relocating people, not rehabilitation. Many of our members have been waiting for 30 years to receive relocation housing while people that never lived on Hopi Partitioned Land benefited,” Yellowman said. “While ONHIR says they have no money to repair relocation housing and build new housing, apparently they have millions of dollars to loan the Navajo Nation to construct casinos and develop more cluster housing without any infrastructure to host communities.”
Kirkpatrick's draft bill would allow the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to contract redevelopment activities from the relocation office through Public Law 93-638.
“The additional promise that '638' programs could be contracted from the office is not a meaningful one for the people of the Bennett Freeze, who have not seen any benefit from existing 638 or Housing and Urban Development programs,” James W. Zion of Albuquerque, attorney for the Forgotten People, said.
“The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation is the coyote that has been stealing and killing our sheep,” said Robert Begay, a member of the Forgotten People board of directors. “To put ONHIR in charge of rehabilitation is like inviting the coyote to take charge. No matter what you do to that coyote he will steal and kill our sheep. That is his instinct. There is no honesty with that coyote.”
Begay said what they need in the former Bennett Freeze area is development planners to work with the people and grassroots groups such as Forgotten People to develop a holistic plan, rather than a Band-Aid approach.
“A past study of a proposed plan for rehabilitating the Bennett Freeze was announced with a great deal of fanfare, and the thick study has never been adopted, much less acted on,” Zion said. “My requests for a copy from the CEO of the Navajo Housing Authority were ignored.”
Navajo Nation Design and Engineering Service and planning consultants from WHPacific Inc., began conducting workshops in 2008 in the nine chapters impacted by the freeze and came up with a regional recovery plan. In 2009, Zion filed notice of intent to sue the Navajo Nation for public disclosure of the nearly $1 million “Former Bennett Freeze Area Recovery Plan.”
Kirkpatrick's draft legislation would establish a “Former Bennett Freeze Area Rehabilitation Trust Fund” to be used solely for purposes which would contribute to the continuing rehabilitation and improvement of conditions for impacted families and communities through 2025. Upon receipt and approval of a plan to use the funds, they would be transferred to the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office or its designee.
On Aug. 4, the Forgotten People filed an accounting lawsuit against the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission to find out where monies from the current Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Trust Fund are, as well as collected fees for easements and rights of way. While the suit is pending, Forgotten People want an injunction on all 638 and HUD contracts and all land purchases by the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission.
Kirkpatrick's plan additionally would authorize the Navajo Nation to negotiate and approve an accommodation agreement with the Hopi Tribe for Navajo families still residing on Hopi Partitioned Land who intend to remain. “The proposed Act would do some tinkering with accommodation agreements with Navajo families without mentioning the due process implications of impairing existing contracts. The Hopi Tribe might have something to say about that,” Zion said.
Marsha Monestersky, program director for Forgotten People, said the organization also wants the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to intervene and assess health impacts.
“Too many people in the former Bennett Freeze have died from living in substandard housing, drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water and living in and around abandoned uranium mines and mills,” she said.
New Mexico Non-Profit To Increase Outreach To Native Youth
Albuquerque, NM - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that $155 million in teen pregnancy prevention grants are being awarded to states, non-profit organizations, school districts, universities, and others.
These grants will support the replication of teen pregnancy prevention programs that have been shown to be effective through rigorous research as well as the testing of new, innovative approaches to combating teen pregnancy.
McClellan Hall, Executive Director and founder of the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, was notified that NIYLP's application for "Web of Life", an adaptation of Project Venture, has been awarded approximately $2.75 million over 5 years.
Congratulations From Senator Udall
Yesterday afternoon Senator Tom Udall's office contacted NIYLP to express congratulations and support conveying that Udall believes NIYLP's programming is important to prevention in New Mexico.
Nest Steps - Following a six-month planning period, NIYLP will be implementing the "Web of Life" in several communities, schools and agencies serving Native American youth.
"Teen pregnancy is a serious national problem and we need to use the best science of what works to address it," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "This investment will help bring evidence-based initiatives to more communities across the country while also testing new approaches so we can expand our toolkit of effective interventions."
The "Web of Life" is an adaptation of Project Venture, the first Native American, evidence-based program to be included on the National Registry of Evidence-basded Programs and Practices list (NREPP)
More About Project Venture - National Indian Youth Leadership Project
NIYLP is a non-profit organization started in Gallup, NM over 25 years ago. NIYLP uses a combination of service-learning, outdoor education, experiential education and culture and tradition to empower generations of youth to realize a more positive future.
National Indian Youth Leadership Project
Director of Operations
National Indian Youth Leadership Project
Executive Director and Founder
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail email@example.com.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
Native Unity Digest stories are now appearing on the BeforeIt'sNews.com site under the Native American News category. Check them out!!!!